Having Poor Vision Can Raise Risk for Falls Among Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Vision impairment and blindness affect one in 11 Americans age 65 and older. Because our population is aging, the number of older adults with vision problems is predicted to rise. Older adults who have impaired vision may be at risk for decreased independence, poorer well-being, and an increased risk of falls. For example, in any given year, approximately 30 percent of adults over age 65 will fall. Having impaired vision more than doubles this risk.

For older adults, falls are a major cause of illness and death. Even having a fear of falling is a challenge that can limit activity and worsen quality of life and independence as you age.

However, we don’t have much information on how often visually impaired older adults experience a fall, and we have even less information about what happens to them after a fall. A team of researchers suggested that we need this information in order to understand the scope of the problem and create ways to prevent falls in visually impaired older adults.

To learn more, the research team examined information from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS). They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Does Having Muscle Weakness and Obesity Lead to Falls for Older Women?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As our society continues to age, experts project that falls and the health complications that can come with them will also rise. In fact, about two-thirds of all hospital costs ($34 billion) are connected directly or indirectly with falls among older adults.

Falls can be especially challenging for older people who are obese and who also have sarcopenia (the medical term for a loss of muscle strength as we age). Currently, 5 percent to 13 percent of adults older than 60 have sarcopenia. Those rates may be as high as 50 percent in people 80-years-old and older.

Older adults who gain weight may increase their risk for muscle weakness and falls. Obesity is a growing epidemic: More than one-third of adults 65-years-old and older were considered obese in 2010. Having sarcopenia and obesity, or “sarcopenic obesity,” is linked to a decline in your ability to function physically, and to an increased risk of fractures.

A team of researchers writing for the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggested that it is important to identify people at risk for falls related to obesity and muscle weakness so that healthcare providers can offer appropriate solutions. Continue reading

How Weight Loss is Linked to Future Health for Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Studies describing the effects of weight loss on health rarely consider age. However, weight loss during middle age likely has different effects on your health than does weight loss when you’re 65-years-old or older—especially when you’re older than 85.

Although some studies have found that weight loss in older adults is generally linked to an increase in illness and death, researchers say that these studies were either too short or were based on information that may have been interpreted incorrectly.

However, one study about fractures and osteoporosis (a medical condition in which bones become thin, lose density, and become increasingly fragile) looked specifically at health and weight for women who were over age 65. Reviewing more than 20 years’ worth of data for study participants, the team of researchers responsible for this study had the chance to examine links between long-term weight gain/loss and health. Their findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Physical Therapy in the Emergency Department after a Fall May Help Reduce Future Fall-Related Visits to the Emergency Department

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Falls are the leading cause of illness and death among Americans aged 65 and older. In 2014, some 2.8 million older adults visited the emergency department (ED) for a fall-related injury. And over time, the ED visit rate for falls among older adults has grown to 68.8 per 1,000 older adults (as of 2010).

Older adults who visit the ED for a fall are at high risk for both revisiting the ED and dying. In fact, some estimates show that 25 percent of older adults visiting the ED for a fall returned for at least one additional fall-related visit. Fifteen percent of those older adults died within the following year.

Because so many older adults visit an ED due to falls, many experts see an opportunity for EDs to play a role in reducing future falls among older adults who are at high risk.

In a new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers explored whether older adults who received physical therapy (PT) services while in the ED for a fall experienced fewer fall-related repeat visits to the ED.

The research team used Medicare claims data representing Medicare beneficiaries from across the country. The information examined differences in 30-day and 60-day ED repeat visit rates among older adults who visited the ED for a fall and who received PT services in the ED. The researchers compared that to older adults who did not receive PT services in the ED after a fall. Continue reading

Helping Prevent Falls in Older Adults with Dementia

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Annually, about one-third of all American adults aged 65 or older experience a fall. Falls are a major cause of medical problems, especially among those who have dementia. In fact, twice the number of older adults with dementia experience falls, compared to people without dementia.

What’s more, older adults with dementia or other cognitive problems who fall are five times more likely to be admitted to long-term care facilities, and are at higher risk for fractures, head injuries, and even death, compared to older adults without dementia who experience a fall.

Researchers have recently focused on the role that dementia and other cognitive problems may play in falling, in hopes of discovering ways to manage and prevent falls. They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading